Investing Early in Children's Development

Closup of SilviaSilvia Chivweta is the dedicated leader of Mulumbo Early Childhood Care and Development Foundation in Zambia. Early Childhood Development (ECD) projects prioritize childhood from pregnancy to eight years old. They address health, development, and education for children at this early developmental stage. When Firelight received a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to help 15 grassroots organizations working on ECD issues in Malawi and Zambia to grow their programs, two organizations took a lead role: Mulumbo Early Childhood Care and Development Foundation and Namwera AIDS Coordinating Committee in Malawi.

Mulumbo provides home-based early childhood care and education development services. They’ve been running ECD programs since 2002 and are at the forefront of Zambia’s work on this issue. Mulumbo is a key member of the Zambia National Education Coalition, an umbrella body of community-based organizations working to promote ECD at the national policy level.

We asked Silvia a few questions about her passion for working with children and how her and Mulumbo’s work relates to the greater fight for universal human rights, dignity, and health. Her answers below are inspiring and thoughtful, just like Silvia.

Why have you chosen to work with young children and early childhood development (ECD)?

One of the issues that attracted me to work with children is first of all the passion that I have for children who I feel are very vulnerable and unable to make decisions on their own. Most children are victims of many circumstances and my conviction is that problems such as poverty can be eradicated if we invest in children when they are still young hence the attention for early childhood development.

I believe that early childhood is the foundation of every human being and the pathway to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. ECD is very critical because that is the period when the child learns various skills that can either impact negatively or positively when they grow up. Children being the future leaders need to be given the attention that they deserve in the quest to ensure that their rights are protected and upheld. Our hope as an organization is to see that every child without exception live a full and healthy life with rights secured, freed from poverty, violence and discrimination and this is something that I believe in.

Silvia (middle) with colleague Louis Mwewa and others outside a community school in Zambia

In your experience, when are young children the happiest?

Children are happiest when they have family or adults to care for them, are healthy and are able to play and interact with their friends. Children love to play.

What makes Zambia unique on issues of ECD?

Zambia’s ECD programme is unique because it is mainly community based and mainly run by the community themselves. It is conducted in open places (under a tree) or simple shelters. The providers of this service are usually caregivers who undergo basic training courses in ECD management. It is also unique because it is cost effective and it uses a holistic approach. Local materials such as wires, clay, bottle tops, bottles, boxes, plastic bottles, and paper are used to make play materials.

Community members seem to contribute a lot to ECD. How do they balance the needs of ECD with their own priorities at home (especially if they are vulnerable families)?

The caregivers work in groups and are volunteers. They work in shifts and spend about 3 hours of their time at the ECD center twice a week. The flexibility of the programme enables them to spend some of their time to do their own work or businesses that help them raise income for their households.


Firelight Foundation and its grantee partners promote children’s rights and contribute to improving the welfare and the betterment of lives of vulnerable children through early childhood development programs in Zambia.